57 reports of fraud involving $1.7m of Covid-19 government grants; 42 arrested: Shanmugam

To date, 42 persons have been arrested for their suspected involvement in such fraud. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - From March 2020 to December 2021, the police received 57 reports involving the abuse or fraudulent application of Covid-19 government grants and payouts amounting to some $1.7 million.

However, the amount disbursed was lower as agencies managed to detect the fraud early.

To date, 42 persons have been arrested for their suspected involvement in such fraud, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in a written reply to a parliamentary question on Tuesday (Jan 11).

He was responding to a question from Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok), who asked for data on the issue of fraud cases involving Covid-19 government grants, and measures to address it.

Mr Shanmugam said investigations into 17 of the cases reported have concluded and involved government funds totalling around $68,000.

About $31,000 was disbursed, and $7,000 has been recovered.

The other cases are still being investigated, or are pending Attorney-General's Chambers' advice or completion of court proceedings, he said.

Eight of the persons arrested have been convicted of cheating or forgery offences, added Mr Shanmugam.

Addressing Mr Murali's question on whether the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would set up a separate agency to investigate these cases, he said: "This is not necessary. Within the Commercial Affairs Department, there is a team called the Public Institutional Fraud Division that investigates fraud in the public sector, including the abuse or fraudulent application of government grants such as the Covid-19 grants."

In response to the question of whether a dedicated whistle-blower channel should be provided to uncover more of such cases, Mr Shanmugam said it is not necessary for MHA to provide one as there are existing channels that the public is familiar with.

Those with information regarding the abuse or fraudulent application of Covid-19 grants can submit information online via the police's I-Witness e-service or make a police report, he said.

Some of the agencies administering grants have also set up channels to obtain information from the public on abuse or malpractices, he added.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.